They had absolutely no idea what it was. But, Allie says it's surprisingly quick how well you get to know it, when it comes knocking at your door.
This is their story.
Within weeks, Dad became run down, something you would expect under the circumstances, and at 83, developed a urinary tract infection. We were due to take him on holiday, so armed with some antibiotics, we packed up and headed into North Wales for what we thought would be a nice relaxing week by the sea. How very wrong we were. Ironically, we were literally yards from the sea, and the poor guy never got to see it once.
Now it has to be said that Dad was unwell from the start, but naively we thought he would improve on the antibiotics. We kept him well hydrated, warm and well fed, so weren't overly worried. But very rapidly, within 24 hours, things started to change. At night he was particularly restless, and found it difficult to get to the bathroom. The most significant symptom was what we now know to be the “rigors”. This is very distressing to watch when your loved one is shaking so hard with cold, their teeth chatter, and their whole body is unable to control itself. Having just lost Mum, alarm bells started to ring, so one evening we took him to see an out of hours doctor in Llangollen Hospital.
We were admiring the beautiful coastal drive there, but I could tell Dad wasn't really with us mentally. The doctor prescribed some stronger antibiotics and as we walked back to the car, Dad said “I thought he was going to tell me to walk into the river 'til me hat floated”. We both laughed a little and I reassured him everything would be OK, now he was on some different tablets.
At 6am the following morning I was woken by the sound of Dad struggling to breath. I immediately leapt out of bed, woke my husband and daughter, and called the paramedics. Dad was incredibly ill, we could see clearly that if they didn't get to us soon, we could be in a very bad place indeed. We tried to keep calm but we were still reeling from losing Mum. I think feeling helpless whilst trying to comfort your loved one is the most distressing thing ever.
Within ten minutes they were there, much to our relief and they took him off to Aberystwyth Hospital. We had to wait 8 agonising hours to see Dad because their visiting times are so strict, so I busied myself with ringing my brother and sister.
When we eventually were allowed to see him, I thought my heart would break. He was lying on his side in bed, and shaking so hard with the rigors. “I wish I was dead” he said to me. I don't think I stopped crying for three weeks after that.
After the diagnosis of sepsis, my sister quickly looked it up, because we had no idea what we were dealing with. I remember her voice on the other end of the phone “It's really serious Al, I'm just reading up about it, and it doesn't sound good at all”. My heart sank further. I just didn't know what to do for him.
The following three weeks were probably some of the worst of my life. We tried to have some sort of holiday, intertwined with lots of tears, worry and hospital visits sitting holding his hand, willing and praying that we wouldn't lose him.
Eventually, thank goodness, he slowly started to improve, but the infection had travelled around his body, and had made it's home in the pins that were keeping his ankle fused together. An operation ensued.
Of course, there came a time when we had to go home to Shropshire, and I felt dreadful. Although the hospital had been amazing, we were torn between having to go home and not wanting to leave him there. It was a two hour drive back to Shropshire, but of course school and my husband's work beckoned.
We decided, between my sister and brother to split the visiting between us, which made it easier for us all. Finally, after three weeks in hospital, they announced he was well enough to come home. I was so elated, not only was my Dad coming to stay with us for the foreseeable and I got to spoil him rotten, but that against all odds, at 83 years of age, he had survived sepsis. We had seen at first hand, this awful illness, and it had been truly terrifying.
It was a long road to recovery, and Dad stayed with us for a further three weeks.
Unfortunately, 12 months later, after a prostate biopsy, he contracted it again. I instantly recognised the symptoms, and wasted no time at all in getting him back into hospital as swiftly as I could. He had the rigors, night sweats, all the symptoms of the previous bout of sepsis. I remember saying to the paramedics, “He's got sepsis again” and they were there in minutes, rushing him off this time to Shrewsbury Hospital, where he spent a week recovering. Thankfully, because I acted quickly he didn't have it as bad.
Sadly, in December last year, my cousin was not so lucky. He became ill within days and rapidly deteriorated until he passed away one evening at home, aged just 49. Three days before Christmas he was buried, leaving a wife and 11 year old son, not to mention his parents, my aunt and uncle and family and friends in total shock by how fast it had taken him.
So when my husband started showing symptoms of urinary sepsis in May of this year, I wasted no time again, in getting help. Our amazing Nurse and Doctors at the surgery had him admitted within hours and thankfully, after five days, he was on the road to recovery.
This has been our story, thank you for taking the time to read it, because it may help you, or someone you love. Sepsis is indiscriminate, it doesn't care who it chooses to attack. Thanks to the UK Sepsis Trust many lives are now saved. But our hearts are with those who were not so lucky.